Gardening: It’s not a loaf of bread in the yard, it’s a Ganoderma mushroom

Question: While walking our dogs in the neighborhood, I saw something I’ve never seen before. It looked like a loaf of some kind of bread under a tree. Then I saw there were several other “loaves.” The biggest one is the size of a dinner plate! I’m guessing these must be in the mushroom family. — June Valentine, Granada Hills

Answer: I did not know the identity of your discovery but was able to find it by going to the website mushroomobserver.org. I uploaded the photo you sent and, within a few hours, your mushroom was identified as Ganoderma polychromum by one of the members of that online mushroom hunter community.

Although this mushroom species has not been extensively investigated, it is a relative of several Ganoderma species with legendary medicinal properties.

However, before experimenting with the healing or culinary possibilities of any mushroom, it is important to thoroughly research that species since certain mushrooms, as everyone knows, are highly toxic.

It’s not unusual for the flowers of the desert rose (Adenium obesum) to fall off. (Photo courtesy hrovatin.com)

Question: I received a desert rose and have it growing in a bright window where it receives light most of the day. However, the blossoms and new buds have fallen off. It is well-watered and lightly fed. I have left it in the original nursery container. What am I doing wrong? Do I have to plant it outside? — Susan Bernard, West Hills

Answer: It is not unusual for desert rose (Adenium obesum) flowers to drop off. Although its leathery epidermis gives it a cactus look, you want to water it more than a cactus, but beware of over-watering since root rot will result.

You are correct in giving it most of the day’s sun. However, you do not want to plant it in the ground because of its sensitivity to cold. You could put it on a patio outdoors during the summer but it needs to be kept inside when temperatures dip below 55 degrees.

Question: Our back lawn was reseeded about three months ago. There are a few small areas that are green but several large areas that are just dirt, not even spurge (a weed) growing in them.

Our neighbor’s lawn was just diagnosed to have a fungus. Finally, a lot of our gazanias are dying. This has never happened in the 48 years we have lived here.

Could it be related to whatever is going on with our lawn?  — Gerda McKeehan, West Hills

Answer: First of all, congratulations on having a gazania planting for 48 years. Usually, gazanias die from over-watering a few years after planting. They should be planted in fast-draining soil and never watered more than once a week.

The clumping types will self-sow under such conditions. If you are having problems with your gazanias, they have either been over-watered or perhaps root growth over all these years has compacted the earth to such an extent that water runs off the soil surface so that the plants dry up and die.

I imagine that soil compaction could also be implicated in grass seed not germinating and in your neighbor’s lawn fungus. You have lived nearly half a century on your property and you can imagine how many times the lawnmower and the gardener’s feet have trodden upon it.

You would be advised to aerate your lawn with an aerator that punches holes in it so that water can soak into the soil. Soil that drains poorly due to compaction is also more susceptible to fungus.

Make sure you put a thin layer of compost (Kellogg’s has a product called Nitrohumus) over the grass seed in order to keep it from drying up before it sprouts.

I should add that good sprinkler coverage is essential to grass seed germination and lawn growth overall. At least two sprinklers, and ideally three, should cover each lawn area.

Elephant foot (Beaucarnea recurvata) (Photo courtesy mgonline.com)

Question: I have an elephant foot plant in my atrium. The plant started out from a 4-inch pot about 25 years ago. It now has a 28-inch base diameter and takes up a good part of the atrium.

For the first time, it has produced a flowering shoot with very small flower buds. What flowers should I expect, and will anything happen to the plant afterward? — Ralph Kroy, Granada Hills

Answer: Elephant foot or ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) is one of the easiest plants to grow. I have never seen an elephant foot die. It’s a plant that grows with little water and just slowly, ever so slowly, gets bigger from year to year. This plant will continue to flower annually from now on.

Although a member of the asparagus family and related to agaves, it does not die after flowering as agaves do, but will continue to flower annually at this time of year. Vanilla flower panicles may be abundant or, on certain individual plants (even when mature), nonexistent.

A notable elephant foot is currently blooming on the corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura boulevards in Studio City.

For more information about area plants and gardens, go to Joshua Siskin’s website, thesmartergardener.com. Send questions and photos to [email protected]

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